The collapse of Milwaukee's pitching staff, which persuaded General Manager Doug Melvin to largely sit out the trade deadline, could have been seen coming in May. You don't lose CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets -- and not replace them with anyone better than Braden Looper -- and compete. . . . The New York Mets are about two weeks away from getting center fielder Carlos Beltran back. They look like road kill at this point but are beginning a stretch in which they play Arizona and San Diego 10 of 12 games. It's a chance to re-enter the wild-card race. . . . How bad is Kansas City? The Royals are 10-11 in starts by Zack Greinke, who has a 2.08 earned-run average, the best in the majors. Greinke says the Royals are playing "as badly as any team I've played for." . . . Rich Hill says he pitched with a torn labrum throughout his short career, but Baltimore isn't claiming Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry intentionally dealt it damaged goods. The Orioles say they will compare recent X-rays to ones taken when Hill had his initial physical in Baltimore but believe the tear he was pitching with was a partial one, relatively common to pitchers. . . . Minnesota engaged in serious discussions with Pittsburgh about second baseman Freddy Sanchez but wouldn't meet the asking price. Pirates GM Neal Huntington asked for Class-A center fielder Aaron Hicks, the Twins' top prospect, or triple-A third baseman Danny Valencia. The uncertain future of Joe Crede left Twins GM Bill Smith unwilling to deal Valencia, who could be a regular next season. Pittsburgh traded Sanchez to San Francisco. . . . It's easy to underestimate the value of rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus to Texas. He's not a run producer at this point in his career, but he has helped the Rangers cut their total of unearned runs given up from 107 in 2008 to only 25 before the weekend.



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